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Easy steps to actually get stuff done everyday.

Quick notes:

– Keep quick task lists close by to make the most of small pockets of time.

– Put Newton’s most commonly referenced law of motion to work in your favor.

– Your physical surroundings may be draining your energy.

– 20% of your action gives you 80% of your results — find your 20%.

That seemingly never-ending task list can be overwhelming as well a complete drain on your mental health and energy. Marking things off of the list, on the other hand, can be incredibly motivating. Try these 10 simple tips to increase your productivity at work.

1. Have a plan

You need a daily plan. You can call it a to-do list, an action plan, a task list, or whatever title motivates you. It does not matter so much what you call it as it does that you have one. Wingin’ it is not conducive to productivity. When you start your work day, you need to know exactly what you need to accomplish.

2. Understand your job or project

A lack of understanding can cause massive delays. Nip that in the bud immediately after being given a job or project by asking questions. Before you walk away, be sure that you know what is expected of you.

3. Set your own deadlines

If you have been given a project, you were probably given a deadline, as well. That deadline is important, but setting your own additional deadlines can push you to be more productive. Have a deadline for each step, task, or phase of the project. This will help prevent waiting until the last minute to start.

4. Break big tasks down

Big tasks are intimidating and can delay the action you need to take to keep things moving. Instead of fighting this, work with it. Break those oversized projects into small, bite-sized tasks. If it is at all possible, immediately schedule those tasks in your calendar or planner.

80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. Find the 20% that gives you 80% of your results. Focus on those tasks and delegate the rest. 

5. Have quick task lists

These are sometimes referred to as “hit lists.” They are simply lists of tasks that you can complete in five, ten, or fifteen minutes. Keep these lists handy so during those rare times you have a few minutes, you can maximize your productivity.

6. Put the law of motion to work for you

Isaac Newton gave us the very well-known law of motion that basically says an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Often, the hardest thing to do in any job or project is getting started. Once you are in motion, you tend to continue.

Some people refer to it as “getting into my groove” or “finding my flow.” Regardless of the phrase you choose, the truth is if you can just get started, you will soon find yourself accomplishing a lot.

7. Remember part 2

There is, however, a second part to this particular law of motion, and that is that the object will stay in motion unless “an external force is applied to it.” If you are going to live by the first part of this law, you must also live by the second.

When it comes to productivity, the “external force” can be summed up with one word: distractions. Nothing can put a stop to productivity quite so effectively as being interrupted by someone or something. Put a stop to unplanned visits from coworkers. Turn your phone on silent and your email notifications off to minimize distractions.

Unsplash / Ira Huz

8. Pareto’s Principle

Italian philosopher and economist Vilfredo Pareto reported that 80% of the results come from 20% of the actions. If you can find the 20% that gives you the best results, focus on those tasks and delegate the rest.

9. Learn the word ‘no’

If you want to be more productive, you have to learn how to tell people “no.” Unless what they are asking of you is part of your 20% mentioned above, kindly decline. Adding more items to your schedule will not make you more productive. It will do the opposite.

10. Change your surroundings

Psychology shows that physical surroundings have a huge effect on energy levels and productivity. Make your surroundings conducive to productivity by keeping colors such as blue, red, yellow and orange on your desk, walls, and anywhere else you can.

Also, spend time decluttering and organizing. Chaotic surroundings can completely overwhelm people and drain energy. Keep your office tidy and decluttered. Spend a little time each day making sure your office ready for the next day.

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

5 effective ways to curb lazy behaviors | Living 101

This article provides a few more tips to get stuff done.

How to save a load of time doing everyday tasks | Living 101

Try these tricks to decrease time you spend on regular tasks.